Tiny Houses

8 April 2016
(Image via David Roth)

(Image via David Roth)

It was a big idea. It started small.

It was a small project. And at times, it was a big headache.

But now, Pittsburgh’s first tiny house has become a home. Roughly six weeks after 567 people lined up on a brisk January afternoon for an open house, the new owners signed the closing docs and got their keys.

The tiny house sold for $109,500, its asking price. Yet, as explained in a previous post on this blog, that’s well below its development costs. We’ve used the Tiny House Journal to document how building a tiny house in a city – on a vacant lot, in an urban environment – isn’t cheap. We ran into three main issues that doubled the development costs: making sure the site was prepared for a new foundation, connecting the home to the city’s separate public water and sewer systems, and ensuring the plans complied with the city’s zoning code. These are all good things. It means the tiny house is going to become a permanent part of the neighborhood.  Generous grants from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Neighborhood Allies, and IKEA Pittsburgh allowed us to continue the Tiny House journey.

Still, we needed $100,000 for a construction loan. Typically, a bank would finance a construction loan. But since the Garfield Tiny House was the first one to be built in Pittsburgh, there are no comparable situations; since there are no comparable situations, there is no established market. This is a problem for most banks. For us though, that meant pulling off another first on our list of firsts.  We turned to Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding platform, to crowdfund the construction loan.

And then it happened: construction commenced, we successfully crowdfunded the needed amount, the tiny house was completed, put on the market and sold! Precedent exists where it didn’t before. An established market is there for future developers.

All along, our goal in developing the tiny house was to turn eyes to Garfield, and to get people to recognize the neighborhood’s value. Our mission was to start a conversation that focused on Garfield as a place of opportunity, not liability, and to create a model for alternative, affordable housing. The tiny house drew a ton of public and media attention – some complimentary, some contrarian – but succeeded in getting people talking about the neighborhood, and establishing a market. And now, our partners at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation are talking with us about other potential collaborations.

This tiny house project is over. Its new owners are making it their own. But because of this tiny house, there’s a blueprint for future development in Garfield and beyond. It’s poised to make a big impact for some time.

Leave a Reply